Whatever Happened To Olympic Gold Medalist Park Tae Hwan?


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Yesterday Hwang Sun Woo broke Olympic medalist Park Tae Hwan‘s national record in the men’s 100m free, which left many readers wondering, “whatever happened to Park Tae Hwan?”

Along with his Korean swimming legacy of becoming the nation’s most successful swimmer of all-time comes his controversy with the now-31-year-old having nearly missed the 2016 Olympic Games due to a doping suspension.

Park had served an 18-month ban for having tested positive for testosterone back in 2014, but the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) sought an additional 3-year suspension. That additional ban on Korean doping offenders would have rendered Park out of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However, after Park appealed to the Court Arbitration for Sport (CAS), sports’ highest court, the organization ruled in favor of Park, determining that the medalist is indeed eligible for this summer’s Games. The KOC subsequently t its own ban on Park, allowing the Olympic champion to represent South Korea in Rio.

After the months-long battle, Park wound up being a non-factor in his pet freestyle events at the 2016 Games, not even making the finals across the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle races after having taken 400m free gold/200m free silver in Beijing, followed by 200m free/400m free silver in London.

His irregular training pattern in light of his legal battle leading up to the Rio Games was one explanation, however, the national record holder also pointed to an alleged blackmailing scandal as another point of distraction setting him off his international swimming game. You can read more background here.

The Korean freestyle ace went on to win triple gold at the 2016 World Short Course Championships, but Park was unable to repeat the same gold medal status the following year at the long course edition. In Budapest, Park finished 4th in the 400m, 8th in the 200m, and 9th in the 1500m freestyle races.

He opted out of the 2018 Asian Games but made a haul at the Korean Championships in October of 2018. In addition to relay wins, Park topped the podium across the men’s 200m free and 400m free to race his way to a total of 5 gold medals on just 2 months’ worth of training. He finished 2018 ranked 11th in the world in the 400m freestyle.

In March of 2019, we reported how Park intended on not competing at that year’s FINA World Aquatics Championships hosted in Gwangju, Korea, but would serve as an ambassador for the event in his home nation. Additionally, Park said at the time he would compete at the 2019 Korean National Sports Festival in Seoul in October 2019 as perhaps his final set of races ever.

Come that Festival, Park showed he still had the stuff, posting a 1:46.90 200m free and 3:50.67 400m free combination for double individual gold in addition to relay wins.

Although Park’s management agency has not confirmed at this time that Park Tae Hwan is in fact retired from swimming, we can confirm that he is not a Korean Swimming Federation- (KSF) affiliated athlete for the year 2020. We will continue to look at what the man does registration-wise for 2021.

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Swimmer A
3 years ago

A fair question would be how long was he using PEDs? We’ll never know, but he was caught in 2014 and won olympic medals in 2012. It sucks too cause he has the model mid distance free stroke. Perfectly balanced, has a second gear he can hit in the final 100.

Swimming Rambo
3 years ago

He’s been on TV reality show lately as a soccer player along with other mostly retired Korean sports legends.
Park once said on this program he’s not retired yet. Assuming that he is past his prime, I wanna see him race 4X200m relay for team Korea with other young guns like Hwang Sun-Woo and Lee Ho-Jun.

2:45 Park scores a winning goal. lol

Last edited 3 years ago by Swimming Rambo
3 years ago

A shame things didn’t quite pan out for him after 2012. Park had a wonderful stroke, and as a teenager filled that post-Thorpe void in middle-distance free.

The handful of 1:44s and 3:41s he threw down are particularly impressive in retrospect, given the times in the 200 and 400 free since.

Crazy to think back to that 2011 200 freestlye final, which had 5 swimmers going 1:44, and Sun Yang wasn’t even racing. The four guys other than Park — Lochte, Phelps, Biedermann, Agnel — weren’t half bad either.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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